Dale Johnson: Dr. Sandra Miller from Complete Hearing joins me on K04 FM 103.3 12:40 AM. It’s time for The Conversation Starts Here. Dr. Miller, thank you very much.
Sandra Miller: Good morning.
Dale Johnson: Good day to you.
Sandra Miller: How are you?
Dale Johnson: Happy Valentine’s Day weekend.
Sandra Miller: I know I’m not one of those crazy people that goes out on Valentine’s Day. So my husband always says, “I know you don’t like to go out, so what can I cook for you at home?” So I’m blessed by that but I don’t like crowds apparently.
Dale Johnson: There are people listening and said, “Well wait, Valentine’s Day was yesterday, right? Make it the whole weekend.”
Sandra Miller: Yeah, it’s a made up holiday. Do you know that? So I heard on the news yesterday that it’s like a billion dollar holiday. So I just think that’s an amazing thing that we will love on that day. We should just love every day.
Dale Johnson: Every day should be Valentine’s day.
Sandra Miller: Right? You pay it forward every day.
Dale Johnson: We are going to talk about the way you should be treated.
Sandra Miller: Yes.
Dale Johnson: Good listeners and the expectations that Dr. Miller sets on herself and the rest of her staff to make your experience at Complete Hearing as comfortable as possible, despite Americans paying more for their care, their health care than patients do virtually anywhere else in the world, most patients will say their healthcare experience remains firmly and frustratingly stuck in the past. That’s not you. That’s generally the consensus from this particular healthcare change website.
Sandra Miller: Exactly. A lot of things I think you see and hopefully providers are paying attention to is we really want to provide a patient centric approach and how we treat our patients. Patient centric and simply that just means that everything we do revolves around what the experience you are going to have when you come to our office. So I compare it a little bit to customer service because I think customer services is dead in America. My husband accuses me of being a little over analytical when it comes to how I’m treated when I go someplace. But I think we need to really demand that or necessarily expect that when it comes to our healthcare.
Sandra Miller: So I think about when I go to the doctor, what was the experience I had when I left that office? Did I feel welcomed? Did I feel informed? Did I feel like I had a choice? Did I feel listened to? Did I wait an hour in the exam room and then the doctor came in and was with me for five minutes and left. That doesn’t make me feel valued. So I think when it comes to customer service, and I’m going to call this really patient-centric focus like we talked about. For us, we want to focus on how do we make that patient feel like this is about them.
Sandra Miller: And it is because they’ve made an appointment to come see us. And so what does that look like in the healthcare industry?
Dale Johnson: I saw a term that the customer feels more like a transactional experience.
Sandra Miller: Oh my goodness.
Dale Johnson: They don’t feel like they were treated as a human, they were treated as a transaction or an account number.
Sandra Miller: The great Warren Buffet says, “Price is what you pay value is what you experience.” And so what did you feel when you were going through this transaction, right? What did I feel valued or not? I think the analogy is so great because we’re such a society that we are looking for a deal. I like to have a nice price when I pay for something. So if I’m here in Lincoln shopping locally and I’ve picked up a device or whatever I’m shopping for and for some reason I put it down and I decided to go home.
Sandra Miller: Did I not buy it because of the price or did I buy it because I didn’t have a good experience at that location where I was. So I think it’s very much comes down to when you are in any type of transaction, whatever you are purchasing, what is the experience when you’re there, where you acknowledged, where you helped? I think it’s such an interesting time where we say, “I will spend my dollars if it’s something where I felt valued and I felt taken care of and it was a good experience.”
Dale Johnson: At Complete Hearing, it starts with the first phone call, the person at the other end or it starts with the person at the front desk when they walk in the front door.
Sandra Miller: Exactly. It’s really important to us at Complete Hearing that we know you’ve called us for a reason and we’re always going to thank you for calling us and then when you walk in the door we want to greet you by name and so imagine how people feel when they’re called by name, when they go someplace. And so for us from top to bottom, it’s about being patient focused and being patient centric and that goes from everywhere, like you said, from the phone call to the first encounter we have with our patients. Sometimes it’s simple that our patients may come and have a difficult time with their paperwork.
Sandra Miller: Our front desk person is more than willing to come around out of that front desk and go sit beside you and help you with something like that. Our clinic definitely tries to run on time. I hate running behind. Imagine that from a doctor’s office. But I would tell you I value your time just as much as you value my time. And so if you’ve set an appointment, I want to make sure I value your time too, because I know we’re all busy and so if I do run behind, I would tell you I do apologize to my patients every time.
Sandra Miller: And if I’m running 15 minutes behind, I apologize that I didn’t get to them on time. So we really strive to function that way in terms of being efficient but also taking ultimate care of the patient. And whether that’s pulling the chair out for them, that’s listening and making sure that if you gave me an entire health history that I’ve read it and I know why you’re here and that I’m not asking you questions that you’ve already given me answers to. When I go to the doctor, that drives me crazy. So tell me about why you’re here today. Well I filled some of those things out and then they ask you the same questions you already answered. And to me that always makes me think, didn’t you read my paperwork that I filled out today? And I would tell you in many physicians defenses that they’re busy and they have a short amount of timeframe to see you.
Sandra Miller: We have the luxury at Complete Hearing to make sure that before we ever bring you back to an exam room, we get your paperwork and we review everything from where you live, to your medications, to all the complaints you have, your previous history, why you came to us today, the communication struggles you’re having. So by the time you get back to the exam room, I get to clarify what you filled out and I get to ask additional questions so that I have a better idea of what direction we need to go.
Dale Johnson: I noticed these things. Maybe it’s because I’m in the person to person business. I look people in the eyes and talk to them about things and I recognize that in an office and so much of what you have just said has nothing to do with the hearing device.
Sandra Miller: Right. Isn’t that…
Dale Johnson: What you have said so far has nothing to do with the customer’s reason initially for coming in and that is to come away with better hearing.
Sandra Miller: Right. I always tell my patients, “I can sell anybody a hearing aid. I’m not here to sell you a widget. I’m not here to sell you… what I’m here to do is provide you a better quality of life and if I’m able to do that, that hearing device that I can put on your ears is just the very first step.” Now we need to talk about how am I going to use this? What are my expectations? What kind of communication strategies do I need to best facilitate using this device? Did I measure it on your ear to make sure it’s appropriate? All the things that go into fitting a device, that’s just the piece. I was telling my patients, you hear with your brain. My job is to get the signal to your brain and then now let’s help your brain figure out how to move forward with this new information it’s getting.
Sandra Miller: A lot of times, unfortunately, devices that are purchased are just put on a person and out they go and you should do great. Well they weren’t given the right expectations to know, guess what, this is going to take a period of time for you to get used to. This is not like glasses. Tonight, I do not want you to go to the restaurant with 50 of your friends and expect to do well. Setting up the right expectations for success for the patient. And so it goes back to, not only reviewing everything, but listening and making sure we ask the right follow-up questions. And my patient might fill out an intake form and it has something on it like, Hey, I’ve had two falls in the last year. Oh my goodness, we need to talk about that. I’ve had this medication change and this is my new symptoms that I’m having. We need to talk about that.
Sandra Miller: So it’s not just about hearing. So sometimes I get my patients say to me, “Well, I’m just here for you to test my hearing.” I’ll say, “Well no, we’re a medical practice so we treat you as a person from top to bottom.” And so there’s many other things that just simply go into the intake form and then honestly the part of the about the communication side of it, we often get to last because we spend a lot of time on where did this come from, what’s going on, how did this happen and then now let’s figure out a solution based on where it’s affecting you and sometimes that might mean for me that I have to refer them to a neurologist, to an ear, nose and throat physician, physical therapy kind of depending on what we discover that I’m trying to treat you as an entire person.
Dale Johnson: You are secure in your ability to help a patient up to a certain point and then you will refer to the neurologist, you will refer, but you will help the patient as far as you are capable and trained to do it.
Sandra Miller: Yeah, capable and trained. I think those are two really important factors. I always want my patients to know that we always have their best interest at heart and we’re always going to take what they’ve given us and give the best recommendation based on what they know. So if for some reason we find out everything’s medically clear and we can move forward and they have hearing loss and they need a hearing aid, I’m going to listen to like what is their dexterity like in their hands, what do they do every day? Not everybody needs the most expensive device. I always tell my patients financially, if you can do it it’s worth it because it gives your brain the best information but let’s talk about your budget. Let’s talk about what’s most appropriate for you based on all that information you gave me.
Sandra Miller: You know we have hearing aids now that the significant other can be involved and they can have an app and they can check in on you for fall risk and they can check in on you for, it’s called a partner app, believe it or not. And so if, say your mom has hearing aids and you want to see if she even put them on today, you could actually have an app that would tell you how many hours she wore them and what she did during the day in terms of sounds she was engaged with. Now I don’t know how I feel about this. It’s kind of brand new, but I think it’s kind of interesting where I would tell you my mom lives 10 hours away from me and so I don’t always know if she had her hearing aid on and it’s best for her and I know that.
Sandra Miller: And so it’s just a way to encourage people. If you’re an encourager or you’re helping care for someone who, or you could be able to say, “Hey, I noticed you didn’t put your hearing aids on today.” Hopefully that doesn’t offend them. But I think it’s just another way to provide really great follow up care and involve the family because it’s not just about that person, it’s about the entire family too. So that’s why we always have our patients always say, “Why do you want somebody to come with me when I come to see you?” Oh my goodness we cover so much information, but there’s typically somebody in your life who’s going to be a support system to you and they need to know all of this information too and really how they can support you as well.
Dale Johnson: What you have done is you’ve taken away that transactional feeling that I mentioned at the very beginning. You’ve taken that away. They’re not a number. They’re not just another person in line. Next. And you won’t hear that.
Sandra Miller: No, no.
Dale Johnson: Better not.
Sandra Miller: Better not.
Dale Johnson: You’ll have Dr. Miller on your case.
Sandra Miller: That’s right.
Dale Johnson: If you hear that.
Sandra Miller: Yes.
Dale Johnson: Do you see yourself as unique?
Sandra Miller: I think we’re very unique. I would tell you one thing we’ve always done when we think about patient centered care is that we moved to a new building three years ago and we talked about at length. What is the parking lot look like? What does the accessibility for the patients? How big does the waiting room need to be? How wide do the doors need to be? How is the patient going to get here and be most accessible and comfortable? We talked about patient flow cause we wanted the experience to be welcoming. We wanted it to be very transparent, that’s the other thing. We really strive in our office to be very transparent. I think we’ll talk in the future just about what that means to be transparent just in regards to options but also the fact that sometimes I may have to refer you someplace else cause I might not participate with your insurance.
Sandra Miller: And so we try to be very transparent from top to bottom and just making you feel like you have options because you do. So, if anything comes up in our office, I always give my patients these are the options you have. Say they need a hearing aid repair. I say these are your three options. You can do nothing. You can have it repaired for X amount of dollars or you may want to consider new. There’s never just one option. And especially when people are thinking about operating on a budget, as many patients do, and as we age, we definitely operate on a budget is what’s the best outcome for that patient based on what they need and financially what they’re able to do.
Dale Johnson: Another option to learn more about complete hearing is complete-herring.com and we always welcome you in to the Conversation Starts Here every Saturday morning on KFOR.